Summer Programs Faculty Focus: Hydrology & Climate Change with Dr. David Boutt

    Posted by Lily Cigale on Mar 3, 2017 12:07:52 PM

    In UMass Amherst, summer, geoscience

    Dave_Boutt.jpgDr. David Boutt is an Associate Professor of Hydrology in the department of Geosciences here at UMass. He grew up in Michigan and spent much of his time as a child fishing and spending time on the Great Lakes. Dr. Boutt attended Michigan State University and was always interested in environmental issues. He started out as a Microbiology major but he realized that he didn't want to spend all his time in a lab, instead he wanted to be out in the field and in nature, collecting data. Dr. Boutt began studying bio remediation and geosciences and went on to get his PhD in Hydrology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

    Ok, so here's something crazy: did you know that of all the water on our planet, most of it is saltwater? And if you look at the fresh water, 2/3 is ice, 1/3 is liquid and of that 1/3, 99%  is underground. This groundwater acts as a reserve, and we often tap into it. The only problem is, we have almost no idea how much groundwater is left or is renewable! "Think of it this way," Dr. Boutt told me as I sat in his office, "it's as if you had a bank account and you were just spending money but you didn't know how much savings you had in your account! That could go bad really quickly". Fundamentally, Dr. Boutt's research focuses on trying to understand how much water is underground and how water moves through the active hydrologic cycle. Groundwater is often "used, abused, and neglected" in Dr. Boutt's words. In fact, humans have taken so much water out of the ground (groundwater depletion) that we've actually contributed significantly to global sea-level rise! Our current groundwater use is not sustainable, so Dr. Boutt and his team focus on discovering knowledge that can be used to promote sustainable groundwater use. 

    Hydrology & Climate Change

    From Source to Sink: Exploring the impact of climate and landscapes on water's journey

    Where does water go when it rains? Where does your drinking water come from? Where does it go after you wash the dishes or take a shower? This 2-week course explores these questions and much more as we learn about the hydrologic cycle and how our area’s geology gives us the water that we depend on.

    You will navigate the Pioneer Valley, learning about the geologic and hydrologic processes that shape watersheds and understanding how watersheds function. You will become an expert in the different types of storage reservoirs for water in the surface and subsurface. We will romp through rivers and take measurements of water flux and water chemistry in forests, wetlands, and from monitoring wells. We will take advantage of laboratory facilities (such as the stable isotope and hydrogeology laboratory) in the Geosciences Department at the University of Massachusetts to analyze and interpret data collected during our field experiences.

    Students will come away from the course with a wide variety of hands-on field experiences as an early introduction into careers as environmental scientists, geoscientists, hydrologists, and environmental engineers. They will understand and appreciate the role of geologic processes that shape how water moves on, through, and beneath our feet. They will gain new perspectives on the global distribution of water and the challenges we as a society face managing this resource in a rapidly changing world.

    If you love being outdoors and would rather get your feet wet than spend all day in the lab, this is definitely the program for you!


    When he isn't teaching high level courses at UMass, Dr. Boutt's work takes him around the world. His team is working in one of the driest deserts in the world in Northern Chile, working to understand how groundwater functions and is recharged into really dry arid environments. They also have a project in the Caribbean, where they are trying to understand what role groundwater plays in the water budgets of those wet, tropical watersheds. If you ask, Dr. Boutt will probably show you the big salt rocks and ancient water samples that he keeps in his office, they're super cool! 

    For more information about our wide variety of pre-college offerings or to apply, visit our website:

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